What other bright ideas do you have for your life?” I askedmyself.
Well, I still had a little money and I was still feelingrestless. I got up and walked out of the post office toexplore the south of India.
I would have liked to say, “I’m a doctor,” to those whoasked me what I did, doctors being the current purveyorsof magic and miracle. But I’m sure we would have had abus accident around the next bend, and ‘with all eyes
fixedon me I would have to explain, amidst the crying andmoaning of victims, that I meant in law; then, to theirappeal to help them sue the government
over the mishap, Iwould have to confess that as a matter of fact it was aBachelor’s in philosophy; next, to the shouts of whatmeaning such a bloody
tragedy could have, I would have toadmit that I had hardly touched Kierkegaard; and so on. Istuck to the humble, bruised truth.
Along the way, here and there, I got the response, “Awriter”? Is that so? I have a story for you.” Most times thestones were little more than anecdotes, short of breath andshort of life.
I arrived in the town of Pondicherry, a tinyself-governing union Territory south of Madras, on thecoast of Tamil Nadu. In population and size it is
aninconsequent part of India – by comparison, Prince EdwardIsland is a giant within Canada – but history has set itapart. For Pondicherry was once the
capital of that mostmodest of colonial empires, French India. The French wouldhave liked to rival the British, very much so, but the onlyRaj they
managed to get was a handful of small ports.
They clung to these for nearly three hundred years. Theyleft Pondicherry in 1954, leaving behind nice white buildings,broad streets at right angles to each
other, street namessuch as rue de la Marine and rue Saint-Louis, and kepis,caps, for the policemen.
Apple resisted licensing out the Macintosh operating system until 1994, when CEO Michael Spindler allowed two small companies, Power Computing and
Radius, to make Macintosh clones. When Gil Amelio took over in 1996, he added Motorola to the list. It turned out to be a dubious business strategy:
Apple got an $80 licensing fee for each computer sold, but instead of expanding the market, the cloners cannibalized the sales of Apple’s own high-
it made up to
$500 in profit.
Jobs could seduce and charm people at will, and he liked to do so. People such as Amelio and Sculley allowed themselves to believe that because Jobs
was charming them, it meant that he liked and respected them. It was an impression that he sometimes fostered by dishing out insincere flattery to those hungry for it. But Jobs could be charming to people he hated just as
easily as he could be insulting to people he liked. Amelio didn’t see this because, like Sculley, he was so eager for Jobs’s affection. Indeed the words
he used to describe his yearning for a good relationship with Jobs are almost the same as those used by Sculley. “When I was wrestling with a problem, I
would walk through the issue with him,” Amelio recalled. “Nine times out of ten we would agree.” Somehow he willed himself to believe that Jobs really respected him: “I was in awe over the way Steve’s mind approached
problems, and had the feeling we were building a mutually trusting relationship.”
Amelio’s disillusionment came a few days after their dinner. During their negotiations, he had insisted that Jobs hold the Apple stock he got for at least six months, and preferably longer. That six months ended in June. When a
block of 1.5 million shares was sold, Amelio called Jobs. “I’m telling people that the shares sold were not yours,” he said. “Remember, you and I had an understanding that you wouldn’t sell any without advising us first.”
“That’s right,” Jobs replied. Amelio took that response to mean that Jobs had not sold his shares, and he issued a statement saying so. But when the next
SEC filing came out, it revealed that Jobs had indeed sold the shares. “Dammit, Steve, I asked you point-blank about these shares and you denied it was you.” Jobs told Amelio that he had sold in a “fit of depression” about
where Apple was going and he didn’t want to admit it because he was “a little embarrassed.” When I asked him
about it years later,
he simply said,
“I didn’t feel
I needed to tell Gil.”
That month Amelio had to face the annual stockholders meeting and explain why the results for the final quarter of 1996 showed a 30% plummet in sales
from the year before. Shareholders lined up at the microphones to vent their anger. Amelio was clueless about how poorly he handled the meeting. “The
presentation was regarded as one of the best I had ever given,” he later wrote. But Ed Woolard, the former CEO of DuPont who was now the chair of the
Apple board (Markkula had been demoted to vice chair), was appalled. “This is a disaster,” his wife whispered to him in the midst of the session. Woolard
agreed. “Gil came dressed real cool, but he looked and sounded silly,” he recalled. “He couldn’t answer the questions, didn’t know what he was talking about, and didn’t inspire any confidence.”
Woolard picked up the phone and called Jobs, whom he’d never met. The pretext was to invite him to Delaware to speak to DuPont executives. Jobs
declined, but as Woolard recalled, “the request was a ruse in order to talk to him about Gil.” He steered the phone call in that direction and asked Jobs
point-blank what his impression of Amelio was. Woolard remembers Jobs being somewhat circumspect, saying that Amelio was not in the right job. Jobs recalled being more blunt:
I thought to myself, I either tell him the truth, that Gil is a bozo, or I lie by omission. He’s on the board of Apple, I have a duty to tell him what I think; on the other hand, if I tell him, he will tell Gil, in which case Gil will never listen
to me again, and he’ll fuck the people I brought into Apple. All of this took place in my head in less than thirty seconds. I finally decided that I owed this
guy the truth. I cared deeply about Apple. So I just let him have it. I said this guy is the worst CEO I’ve ever seen, I think if you needed a license to be a CEO
he wouldn’t get one. When I hung up the
phone, I thought,
I probably just
did a really
He had told Larry Ellison that his return strategy was to sell NeXT to Apple, get appointed to the board, and be there ready when CEO Gil Amelio stumbled. Ellison may have been baffled when Jobs insisted that he was not
motivated by money, but it was partly true. He had neither Ellison’s conspicuous consumption needs nor Gates’s philanthropic impulses nor the competitive urge to see how high on the Forbes list he could get. Instead his
ego needs and personal drives led him to seek fulfillment by creating a legacy that would awe people. A dual legacy, actually: building innovative products and building a lasting company. He wanted to be in the pantheon with, indeed
a notch above, people like Edwin Land, Bill Hewlett, and David Packard. And the best way to achieve all this was to return to Apple and reclaim his kingdom.
And yet when the cup of power neared his lips, he became strangely hesitant, reluctant, perhaps coy.
He returned to Apple officially in January 1997 as a part-time advisor, as he had told Amelio he would. He began to assert himself in some personnel areas, especially in protecting his people who had made the transition from
NeXT. But in most other ways he was unusually passive. The decision not to ask him to join the board offended him, and he felt demeaned by the
suggestion that he run the company’s operating system division. Amelio was thus able to create a situation in which Jobs was both inside the tent and
outside the tent, which was not a prescription for tranquillity. Jobs later recalled:
Gil didn’t want me around. And I thought he was a bozo. I knew that before I sold him the company. I thought I was just going to be trotted out now and
then for events like Macworld, mainly for show. That was fine, because I was working at Pixar. I rented an office in downtown Palo Alto where I could work
a few days a week, and I drove up to Pixar for one or two days.
It was a nice life.
I could slow down,
with my family.
“Well,” he concluded, “I don’t think ‘mercurial’ is so bad after all.” After the applause, he used the quotations book to make a more subtle point, about his reality distortion field. The quote he chose was from Lewis Carroll’s Through
the Looking Glass. After Alice laments that no matter how hard she tries she can’t believe impossible things, the White Queen retorts, “Why, sometimes I’ve
believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Especially from the front rows, there was a roar of knowing laughter.
All of the good cheer served to sugarcoat, or distract attention from, the bad news. When it came time to announce the price of the new machine, Jobs did what he would often do in product demonstrations: reel off the features,
describe them as being “worth thousands and thousands of dollars,” and get the audience to imagine how expensive it really should be. Then he announced what he hoped would seem like a low price: “We’re going to be
charging higher education a single price of $6,500.” From the faithful, there was scattered applause. But his panel of academic advisors had long pushed to keep the price to between $2,000 and $3,000, and they thought that Jobs
had promised to do so. Some of them were appalled. This was especially true once they discovered that the optional printer would cost another $2,000,
and the slowness of the optical disk would make the purchase of a $2,500 external hard disk advisable.
There was another disappointment that he tried to downplay: “Early next year, we will have our 0.9 release, which is for software developers and aggressive end users.” There was a bit of nervous laughter. What he was
saying was that the real release of the machine and its software, known as the 1.0 release, would not actually be happening in early 1989. In fact he didn’t
set a hard date. He merely suggested it would be sometime in the second quarter of that year. At the first NeXT retreat back in late 1985, he had
refused to budge, despite Joanna Hoffman’s pushback, from his commitment to have the machine finished in early 1987.
Now it was
clear it would
be more than
two years later.
The event ended on a more upbeat note, literally. Jobs brought onstage a violinist from the San Francisco Symphony who played Bach’s A Minor Violin Concerto in a duet with the NeXT computer onstage. People erupted in
jubilant applause. The price and the delayed release were forgotten in the frenzy. When one reporter asked him immediately afterward why the machine was going to be so late, Jobs replied, “It’s not late. It’s five years ahead of its time.”
As would become his standard practice, Jobs offered to provide “exclusive” interviews to anointed publications in return for their promising to put the
story on the cover. This time he went one “exclusive” too far, though it didn’t really hurt. He agreed to a request from Business Week’s Katie Hafner for
exclusive access to him before the launch, but he also made a similar deal with Newsweek and then with Fortune. What he didn’t consider was that one of Fortune’s top editors, Susan Fraker, was married to Newsweek’s editor
Maynard Parker. At the Fortune story conference, when they were talking excitedly about their exclusive, Fraker mentioned that she happened to know that Newsweek had also been promised an exclusive, and it would be coming
out a few days before Fortune. So Jobs ended up that week on only two magazine covers. Newsweek used the cover line “Mr. Chips” and showed him leaning on a beautiful NeXT, which it proclaimed to be “the most exciting
machine in years.” Business Week showed him looking angelic in a dark suit, fingertips pressed together like a preacher or professor. But Hafner pointedly
reported on the manipulation that surrounded her exclusive. “NeXT carefully parceled out interviews with its staff and suppliers, monitoring them with a
censor’s eye,” she wrote. “That strategy worked, but at a price: Such maneuvering—self-serving and relentless—displayed the side of Steve Jobs that so hurt him at Apple. The
trait that most
stands out is
Jobs’s need to
The Launch, October 1988Jobs had perfected the art of turning product
launches into theatrical productions, and for the world premiere of the NeXT computer—on October
12, 1988, in San Francisco’s Symphony Hall—he wanted to outdo himself. He needed to blow away the doubters. In the weeks leading up to the event, he drove up to San Francisco almost every day to hole up in the Victorian house
of Susan Kare, NeXT’s graphic designer, who had done the original fonts and icons for the Macintosh. She helped prepare each of the slides as Jobs fretted over everything from the wording to the right hue of green to serve as the
background color. “I like that green,” he said proudly as they were doing a trial run in front of some staffers. “Great green, great green,” they all murmured in assent.
No detail was too small. Jobs went over the invitation list and even the lunch menu (mineral water, croissants, cream cheese, bean sprouts). He picked out a video projection company and paid it $60,000 for help. And he hired the
postmodernist theater producer George Coates to stage the show. Coates and Jobs decided, not surprisingly, on an austere and radically simple stage look. The unveiling of the black perfect cube would occur on a starkly minimalist
stage setting with a black background, a table covered by a black cloth, a black veil draped over the computer, and a simple vase of flowers. Because
neither the hardware nor the operating system was actually ready, Jobs was urged to do a simulation. But he refused. Knowing it would be like walking a tightrope without a net, he decided to do the demonstration live.
More than three thousand people showed up at the event, lining up two hours before curtain time. They were not disappointed, at least by the show. Jobs
was onstage for three hours, and he again proved to be, in the words of Andrew Pollack of the New York Times, “the Andrew Lloyd Webber of
product introductions, a master of stage flair and special effects.” Wes Smith of the Chicago Tribune said the launch
was “to product
Vatican II was to
Gates and NeXTBill Gates was not a soul mate. Jobs had convinced him to produce software applications for the Macintosh, which had turned out to be hugely profitable for Microsoft. But Gates was one person who was resistant
to Jobs’s reality distortion field, and as a result he decided not to create software tailored for the NeXT platform. Gates went to California to get
periodic demonstrations, but each time he came away unimpressed. “The Macintosh was truly unique, but I personally don’t understand what is so unique about Steve’s new computer,” he told Fortune.
Part of the problem was that the rival titans were congenitally unable to be deferential to each other. When Gates made his first visit to NeXT’s Palo Alto
headquarters, in the summer of 1987, Jobs kept him waiting for a half hour in the lobby, even though Gates could see through the glass walls that Jobs was
walking around having casual conversations. “I’d gone down to NeXT and I had the Odwalla, the most expensive carrot juice, and I’d never seen tech
offices so lavish,” Gates recalled, shaking his head with just a hint of a smile. “And Steve comes a half hour late to the meeting.”
Jobs’s sales pitch, according to Gates, was simple. “We did the Mac together,” Jobs said. “How did that work for you? Very well. Now, we’re going to do this together and this is going to be great.”
But Gates was brutal to Jobs, just as Jobs could be to others. “This machine is crap,” he said. “The optical disk has too low latency, the fucking case is too
expensive. This thing is ridiculous.” He decided then, and reaffirmed on each subsequent visit, that it made no sense for Microsoft to divert resources from
other projects to develop applications for NeXT. Worse yet, he repeatedly said so publicly, which made others less likely to spend time developing
“Develop for it?
I’ll piss on it,”
he told InfoWorld.
One of NeXT’s first ten employees was an interior designer for the company’s first headquarters, in Palo Alto. Even though Jobs had leased a building that was new and nicely designed, he had it completely gutted and rebuilt. Walls
were replaced by glass, the carpets were replaced by light hardwood flooring. The process was repeated when NeXT moved to a bigger space in Redwood City in 1989. Even though the building was brand-new, Jobs insisted that the
elevators be moved so that the entrance lobby would be more dramatic. As a centerpiece, Jobs commissioned I. M. Pei to design a grand staircase that seemed to float in the air. The contractor said it couldn’t be built. Jobs said it
could, and it was. Years later Jobs would make such staircases a feature at Apple’s signature stores.
During the early months of NeXT, Jobs and Dan’l Lewin went on the road, often accompanied by a few colleagues, to visit campuses and solicit opinions. At Harvard they met with Mitch Kapor, the chairman of Lotus software, over dinner at Harvest restaurant. When Kapor began slathering
butter on his bread, Jobs asked him, “Have you ever heard of serum cholesterol?” Kapor responded, “I’ll make you a deal. You stay away from commenting on my dietary habits, and I will stay away from the subject of
your personality.” It was meant humorously, but as Kapor later commented, “Human relationships were not his strong suit.” Lotus agreed to write a spreadsheet program for the NeXT operating system.
Jobs wanted to bundle useful content with the machine, so Michael Hawley, one of the engineers, developed a digital dictionary. He learned that a friend of his at Oxford University Press had been involved in the typesetting of a new
edition of Shakespeare’s works. That meant that there was probably a computer tape he could get his hands on and, if so, incorporate it into the NeXT’s memory. “So I called up Steve, and he said that would be awesome,
and we flew over to Oxford together.” On a beautiful spring day in 1986, they met in the publishing house’s grand building in the heart of Oxford, where Jobs made an offer of $2,000 plus 74 cents for every computer
sold in order
to have the rights to
Apple’s stock went up a full point, or almost 7%, when Jobs’s resignation was announced. “East Coast stockholders always worried about California flakes running the company,” explained the editor of a tech stock newsletter.
“Now with both Wozniak and Jobs out, those shareholders are relieved.” But Nolan Bushnell, the Atari founder who had been an amused mentor ten years earlier, told Time that Jobs would be badly missed. “Where is Apple’s
inspiration going to come from? Is Apple going to have all the romance of a new brand of Pepsi?”
After a few days of failed efforts to reach a settlement with Jobs, Sculley and the Apple board decided to sue him “for breaches of fiduciary obligations.” The suit spelled out his alleged transgressions:
Notwithstanding his fiduciary obligations to Apple, Jobs, while serving as the Chairman of Apple’s Board of Directors and an officer of Apple and pretending loyalty to the interests of Apple . . .
(a) secretly planned the formation of an enterprise to compete with Apple;
(b) secretly schemed that his competing enterprise would wrongfully take advantage of and utilize Apple’s plan to design, develop and market the Next Generation Product . . .
(c) secretly lured away key employees of Apple.
At the time, Jobs owned 6.5 million shares of Apple stock, 11% of the company, worth more than $100 million. He began to sell his shares, and within five months had dumped them all, retaining only one share so he could
attend shareholder meetings if he wanted. He was furious, and that was reflected in his passion to start what was, no matter how he spun it, a rival
company. “He was angry at Apple,” said Joanna Hoffman, who briefly went to work for the new company. “Aiming at the educational market, where Apple was
strong, was simply
Steve being vengeful.
He was doing it